15 December

Which were the preeminent art events of 2020? Intendant of Tromsø Kunstforening, Leif Magne Tangen, opines.

Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari, Beaivvás Mánát / Leve blant reptiler, 2020, detail from book.

Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari, Beaivvás Mánát / Leve blant reptiler, commission for UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø

In the six years since I relocated to Tromsø, I’ve frequently been asked, mostly by persons who reside further south, be that in Norway or elsewhere in Europe, if and why Sámi art has any role to play. In Leipzig, I was asked the same question about artists from Norway, and in Brooklyn about artists from Leipzig (who were not painters). Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari’s Beaivvás Mánát / Leve bland reptiler (Living Among Reptiles), published by Mondo Books and KORO, is, as the title suggests, a two-in-one collection of poems (of which I can only read one). It is also a joik and a collection of quotes from paintings, all by Sombán Mari. The risograph-printed book is meticulously crafted, both visually and conceptually, and testifies to a deep collaboration between artist, designer, and publisher far too rarely seen in Norway. A gem.

Ways of Seeing Collective, WOS-TV, 2020, still from video.

Ways of Seeing Collective (Sara Baban, Hanan Benammar, Pia Maria Roll, Birgitte Sigmundstad) Ways of Seeing-TV (WOS-TV)

How can one follow up a politically charged work of art such as the play Ways of Seeing (2018) in a way that feels urgent and interesting, when reality, as they jokingly say, is stranger than fiction, and when the fourth wall is broken and the theatre becomes hitched to the bandwagon of a media-made reality and a right-wing network? Well, the result is the best Norwegian TV has to offer in 2020. Most people will disagree; most people do not have the patience. Sadly, most people have neither read nor watched John Berger’s groundbreaking work of the same name. WOS-TV is an essay film/series full of humour, social critique, and art.

Meme by Sophie Carapetian.

Sophie Carapetian and Jakob Jakobsen, Social Crisis! Mental Crisis! Hospital Prison University Radio

The ongoing conversation between Sophie Carapetian and Jakob Jakobsen – comprising nine episodes at the time of writing – is in many ways part of, but also on the fringes of, society. Both are Marxists, artists, and struggle with mental health issues. How is it possible to be so vulnerable and yet so incisive in criticising the flaws, weaknesses, and cynicism of our systems? In Social Crisis! Mental Crisis! Carapetian and Jacobsen, sometimes with guests, demonstrate how you can raise difficult topics, such as suicide and witch hunts (to just mention some of the themes they discuss), and make it all too relevant for today.

Leif Magne Tangen is a curator, writer, and film producer. He has been intendant of Tromsø Kunstforening since 2014.

For this year’s contributions to Kunstkritikk’s Advent Calendar, see here.